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When an organization rebrands, there’s always the possibility that existing clients or supporters will feel alienated, and that anyone already familiar with your organization will be confused by the change.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

By following a few simple steps when you launch your new brand, you can ensure the process goes smoothly and the transformation is a positive experience.

Communicate your organization’s rebrand clearly

What is the purpose of your organization’s rebrand? It’s important to state this clearly to your audience. They want and deserve to know your organization’s intentions.

For instance, when we rebranded Hollister Creative to embrace social impact marketing, we made our reasons clear: Hollister Creative could be a greater force for good if we became intentional about serving socially conscious organizations.

Failing to clearly state your reasons for a rebrand can undermine the trust that your organization has worked so hard to build.

Use all your communication tools

It’s essential to make use of every tool in the communications toolbox to let people know about your new direction or new look. Your blog, social media accounts, email and even mailing lists should all be included when you make the announcement. Press releases should be sent to local media outlets as well.

As in any relationship, communication is key. Whether you’re rebranding a business or changing the look and direction of a nonprofit, your customers, donors and supporters all need to be kept in the loop and reassured they’re going to get the same great products, services or dedication to mission that they’ve come to expect.

Apply the rebrand consistently

This means any change in logos or messaging needs to be represented on your website, emails, social media, printed materials, uniforms, vehicles — even any automated messages on the office phone system. And, because it’s important to have a consistent brand style, make sure that you’ve done any redesign necessary to ensure that the colors, fonts and even tone of your new content match.

This is not a task that should be done piecemeal — if your website look differs from your social media accounts, or your printed materials have a different message or tone than your voicemail, you run the risk of alienating your audience.

There’s a caveat to that, however, which we’ll cover next.

Don’t erase all traces of your old brand

Whether you communicate the rebrand far in advance or launch it without warning (not a good idea), if an existing customer goes to your website or social media accounts and finds that they look completely different, there’s going to be confusion and, possibly, resentment.

For proof, just look at the experiences of The Gap and Tropicana. In 2010 and 2009, respectively, both made major changes to their look — The Gap to its logo, Tropicana to its packaging. Customers were quite vocal about their displeasure.

The Gap’s changes were implemented seemingly overnight, and customers who went to the company’s website expecting to see the familiar dark blue box and white name were met with a logo that left them confused. Was this the same clothing store? Were they on the correct website? And when Tropicana rolled out a whole new look to its juice cartons, many customers thought a generic store brand had replaced the product they’d come to know and trust over the years. Both brands quickly went back to their old look.

If the appearance of your new brand is going to change significantly, you need to come up with the perfect timing strategy to roll it out. If it happens too slowly, customers won’t be able to tell the old brand from the new. If it happens too fast, they’ll be confused and, most likely, angry — and you’ll lose customers or supporters.

Keep existing SEO gains in mind

Your brand has likely built up a good online presence over the years. In order to minimize the hit to your SEO, a good strategy is to go back and add some of your new keywords to older blog posts and pages. By keeping existing keywords while adding new ones, you’ll be able to retain some of those SEO results you’ve worked so hard to build.

You should also gradually update some of the older content — again, retaining some of the old keywords and phrases, but also adding a few of the newer ones. This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing the rebrand to build on the foundation that’s already in place.

When done properly, rebranding an organization can be an exciting undertaking. Proper communication is key to making all your work — and your announcement — successful.